Monday, May 11, 2009

know your rights -do your homework -useful resources

Free Online Legal Advice That You Can Trust... In Plain English, Too

Albin Renauer, JD

Many law-related Web sites offer little guidance beyond "call a lawyer" -- often because they actually are marketing tools for law firms. Others are written in hard-to-understand legalese. But a few sites do provide reliable, understandable legal information for laypeople. Top sites now...

GENERAL LEGAL TOPICS From the publishers of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, this site offers solid legal guidance on a wide range of topics, including civil rights, consumer protection, criminal law, employment, family law, immigration, malpractice, personal injury, real estate and Social Security. You can post specific legal questions on the site's message board, and they will be answered by practicing lawyers. You also can search for a lawyer in your area.

Other sites that provide solid information in plain English on a wide range of legal topics... The most heavily visited legal-information Web site, FindLaw covers matters ranging from accidents and divorce to real estate and taxes. Nolo is the nation's leading publisher of plain-English law books, and it offers information online for free.


If you need to learn about a law specific to your state, check your state government's Web site. Most can be found at "www." followed by the state's postal abbreviation, then ".gov." Example: for New York. Or type your state's name followed by "government Web site" into an Internet search engine, such as Google.

Most state sites have a section related to law, the courts or the judiciary.

If you can't find what you need, try typing your state's name and "laws" or "attorney general" into a search engine -- many attorneys general provide information for consumers online.

You also can enter the state's name plus key words related to the specific topic, such as "small-claims court" or "consumer protection."


Bankruptcy in Brief. This Web site, developed by Moran Law Group based in Mountain View, California, provides a road map for the bankruptcy process. My site offers information on bankruptcy -- how to file, links to federal forms, state bankruptcy exemption laws and a free "means-test" calculator to determine eligibility.


The American Bar Association site has a section on wills, probate and trusts that offers a good, if somewhat lawyerly, outline of estate-planning law. Information about legal issues facing seniors, including Medicare, long-term-care insurance, Social Security, disability planning and more, provided by a nationwide network of elder-law attorneys.

The Estate Planning Links Web site has links to articles and Web sites related to estate planning.

MSN MoneyCentral's Retirement and Wills page offers hundreds of articles related to estate planning.

Have a good day, be well and take care

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